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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 6, 2010 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. a pulitzer winning writer. he shows evidence to refute the option of a monolithic plaque jen that. and a visit from a south african jazz artist. he's here in support of his first project in three years. it is a album called "so strong." coming up right now. >> all i know --
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>> eugene robinson is a editor at "the washington post." his latest book is called disintegration, the splintering of black america. he joins us from new york. good to have you back on the program. >> great to be here. thank you for having me. >> congratulations on the 30
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years at the post. how do you -- how do you historically situate that? 30 years at "the washington post"? >> it is very difficult. who knew -- who knew that i would have survived the 30 years at such an institution and who knew, you know, that the institution -- given the way things are now would have survived that long as well. but we're -- we're both still alive and kicking. >> what do you make quickly -- to your point now of the way the business is changing, that's to say this notion that people think that papers at some point in the not too distant future, that actual papers may be a thing of the -- of the past. >> it is a bewildering time. we had a lot of buyouts and down in head count. we're down in capacity, in our ability to do what newspapers really have to do for this -- the democracy to survive and to
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succeed. but i have to believe that -- that something new is coming that we're going to, that somehow we're going to make electronic distribution, whether through the web or the ipad or kindle or whatever, somehow we're going to make it work and make an economic model that supports the journalism that -- that well all need. >> you're comfortable in believing that there's an economic model out there that can in fact support the kind of jureplism that we need. i'm not sure that the jury is in on that yet. >> no, the jury is not in. am i comfortable in believing that? let's not say comfortable. let's say i'm optimistic. i have to believe that. i have to believe we have to keep working toward that. the jury is not in on that. if -- if there's not a model that supports investigative reporting and accountability reporting, then we're in trouble. we got to find one. >> we agree on the last point to
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be sure. to the book, up pack the title for me first. >> i -- what i wanted to do with this book, tavis, was my sense was that -- that when we talk about black america, often we were talking about -- about a mon lith that was never monolithic and it is much less now, in order to discuss things intelligently, first you have to see them clearly. i felt when you look at black-america, you have not a single entity, but a collection of entities, i identify four. you could slice it or dice it other ways, i mean, sure. they have affinities and a shared history. they're not in the same condition. arguably that -- it -- between which there's some increasing
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distance. i wanted to resurvey black america in that way. and maybe provide -- maybe a new starting point for the way we ought to talk about it and figure out how to proceed. >> i want to talk about the four groups here. i have always, certainly for years now have tried to, it is a subtle sdippings, but when i talk about black voters, i try to use the black voters as opposed to the black vote. there's no black vote anymore. there are black voters, they're distinct groups inamerica. i raise all of that to ask whether or not disintegration means disunity. >> it doesn't have to mean disunity, i certainly hope it doesn't. i don't -- what i'm trying to do here is not to draw lines. i'm just trying to see things clearly, so we could work on the right problems and work on the right problems in the right way.
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so, no, it doesn't have to mean disunity. it does have to mean a certain shift in the way we think about ourselves and the way we think about our anybodies and in the way we think about african-americans or black people in the country in general. >> i think one of the reasons, the most recent, the most contemporary reason why folks think there's a black vote as opposed to black voters is given -- given -- is based upon how we turned out in record numbers, pretty monolithicly for barack obama during the campaign. we'll get to that in a second. that's the most reason evidence that people think we're a mon lith inside america. this book tries to break that down with four distinct groups in the black community. we start with the first of the four, mainstream. break it down for me. >> yes, mainstream black america is the majority.
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they have -- they have intered the middle class. we have intlerd -- we have intered the middle class, you could say, precariously. we have more downward mobility. there's a wealth gap when you talk about the middle class, but basically if you take the demographics and start comparing it, you -- you kind of look at a group that is like canada. we're like canadians in in the sense of how wealthy and wealth and income and how well we're doing. that would be the first mainstream group. >> the second group you call -- the second group you call -- are discussed in the book, you call the abandoned. >> right. this is really the central -- i think we could call it a cleave vadge now. there is a too large way too
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large minority of plaque americans -- it could be 25%, could be -- could be arguably maybe 30% but around there. who did not make that leap into the middle class for a variety of reasons. one, you know -- the main reason is that -- they didn't climb the ladder as the rungs were taken away, sometimes systematicly and sometimes just snatched away before they got a chance to get on even the bottom rung. so those are the people who get gentrified out of inner city neighborhoods and pushed to this corner and that corner and finally to the periphery of the -- of the urban area and to the periphery of our national consciousness. what has happened, if you think back 50 years, you talk about black communities, they were economically and socially
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integrated within the context of segregation. so, you -- you might live next door to a preacher who lived next door to a mayberer who lived next door to a lawyer, who lived next door to a seamstress but -- there has been a kind of economic strat fiction where you have -- where you have wealthy black or -- enclaves like the county outside of atlanta, like prince georges county outside washington where middle class and above folks have gathered to live. you have neighborhoods left behind. neighborhoods that are abandoned where you have dysfunctional schools, you have -- you have crime, you have no -- no city services to speak of. and -- an increasing distance between those two groups. >> the third group, you call the transcendant group. this is the elite powerful african-americans, you call them
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transndant, i think we know who they are because they're in rain shower face every day, this group that you speak of have the abandoned beep in fact abandoned by the system -- been abandoned by the system, the government, man, white folk or been abandoned by the transcendant negros? >> i think they been abandoned by everybody. they been abandoned by the government, by the transcendant plaque folks. they have been abandoned increasingly by the mainstream black folks. when we had a -- a sustained intense discussion about the plight of poor black america in those terms, i mean, we're now supposed to have this color-free discussion about poverty but -- i want to talk -- at least for the purposes of this book about poor black america. this is a job we were supposed
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to be working on back in the great society days. there's so much left undone. we're creating this -- this -- this group of left behind african-americans specifically that -- that is not a good thing for our society, it is certainly not a good thing for those people that have no purchase on the american dream. >> i have 45 seconds left. there are two emergent groups we're not going to talk about now because i want to tease to go to the book. there's two emergeant groups in the book you have to read about. i find these to be the most fascinating part. >> it is interesting. >> just a few second, why is it that black folk are so hesitant to acknowledge that we are turning on each other, that we're abandoning these lower working, weak black folk. why are reafraid to acknowledge that? >> we don't want to talk about this. we want to pretend that we're
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all -- that we're all unified and that we're all one and that we're all -- we're still holding hands. i think we just need to look critically and look honestly at what is really going on. there's people that are doing fine. here's a lot of people over here who are not doing well at all. the distance is growing. this is not shrinking, the distance as it ought to be, it is growing. until we recognize that, i think we're -- we're not going to -- we're not going to get done what we need to get done, which is consen straighted efforts to help the abandoned before it is too late. >> it is a powerful pol limb i think about the deconstruction of black america as you think you know it. it is called "disintegration, the splintering of black america." congratulations on the text, good to have you on the program. >> thanks so much. >> up next, south african jazz
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great, jonathan butler. he brought his guitar with him. stay with us. >> he's grabbing it. >> i feel like holding it. >> i like you holding it too. i love how you play. >> i with block the six-pack. >> block the six-pack. >> you could block it right now. >> as you figure out now, jonathan butler, an acclaimed musician, he's a popular fixture in the muse business around the globe. here's a small sample of him in concert. ♪ ♪ for the two of us ♪ ♪ what happened to you ♪ and i -- ♪
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>> good to see you, man. >> good to see you. >> you doing all right? >> better now. i just don't have your time. >> you're fine. >> see what happens when we run into each other in airports. >> i love it. i'm sitting there eating my salad. i look across and there you are. invite you to the show. and she grabs you. >> was that embarrassing or what? >> you were on your knees. you were literally singing the song. it was freezing out there. >> what about the inside story. i see butler ads you mentioned in an airport. he's on tour. and -- jonathan says come to the show. come to the show tonight. i finish my speech, went to the show. somehow i end up being called on to the stage in the middle of their show by sheila e who wants me to sing princess kiss while she plays just drums. sheila e in this live concert is playing drums, i'm singing kiss
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by prince. how i got this, i do not know. i have you to blame for inviting me to that show. >> you never know what sheila is going to do. i hope i didn't embarrass myself too bad. i would love to hear coming home to jesus. can you do that now? a little bit. ♪ ♪ falling in love with jesus ♪ ♪ ♪ falling in love with jesus ♪ ♪ snothse ♪ falling in love with jesus ♪ ♪ was the best thing that i ever done ♪ ♪ in his arms i feel protected
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♪ ♪ in these arms never ♪ ♪ never dare connected ♪ ♪ in these arms i feel protected ♪ ♪ there's no place like i would rather be ♪ >> i love this song. >> thank you. tavis: i love that song. i was online messing around, came across -- i know the song. been loving it for years. came across the song. see what it was. i clicked on a couple of youtube videos. as a video, you may have seen this. a video of stevie wonder. have you seen it? there's a video of stevie singing the song. before he since it, he says, i want to sing a little song for you now. he said, i wish, this is stevie saying, one of the greatest song
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writers of all time saying, i wish i had written this song. i can't take credit to it jonathan butler beat me to it. and he killed that thing. >> my goodness, i was picking up a friend of mine from south africa, from the airport. just got in the states and drove him to my house and drove up to the driveway, opened the front door, took his luggage, i was about to go up the stairs to tame -- take him to his room. a friend of mine said, jonathan, turn on the television right now. turn -- i turn on the tv and stevie mentions it. my friend from south africa, was standing, like i planned this whole thing, like i set him up. i know some people, you better watch me. and i just cracked up. he goes, my goodness. and stevie is like -- has been like -- like a mentor to me
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growing up in south africa. i -- i truly think he's been some, probably the only person i can tell you, like song writing. he made me realize that -- that i could write a song. you know, i wanted to be original, because this guy was doing -- that he was writing his own stuffer. in south africa it was like -- he was like burkley for me. >> every time i see you in concert, which you know, i do as often as can i. you were unapologetic, so not shy about -- about breaking off two or three gospel tracks in the middle of all of your other stuff. all your jazz and your r & b, and your pop. it is so much a part of who you r your fans have gotten accustomed to doing this no matter who you with. >> i got saved 30 years ago, just before i got married. and it was -- it was -- it was life transforming for me.
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i come from a family, a baby of 12, and -- chaos and you know, poverty, and -- it wasn't like i grew up in church. >> capetown. >> yeah. growing up in show business, that day was such a -- an unbelievable experience for me and i kind of cling to the lord. i just really -- because i was -- i was always away from my family since i'm seven years old. i had someone else to cling to. it -- it just sort of -- as you said, it -- god is a part of my life. i'm connected. i felt in the defwhring of my conversion and my relationship with the lord, i was a little -- little shy to let people know because they wanted to say, cera, lies, and i was a little shy. but something happened, and when
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the anointing came on me, it was like i thought i had to declare god wherever i go. >> when you mention you were born in capetown, i remember the first time i went to capetown. i -- every time i go back for that matter, i'm consistently blown away by the fact that of all of the places in the world i've been -- i've been a few places, only place i would want to live outside of the u.s.a. is your hometown. >> isn't it beautiful? >> yes, every time i go this i think apartheid did in fact ruin this for so long. the place was so beautiful. >> there was a cloud over south africa, a dark cloud. >> that was such a beautiful place. >> yeah. i learned, i learned, i'm learning to -- i'm rediscovering my city, i'm rediscovering my country every opportunity i get to go back. i go into the mountains, i go to the wine regions.
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>> you vowed for a while to never go back and play. >> i didn't want to play there, for like, when i moved to england. i said i'll never go in sfroik unless i'm playing for a multi-racial audience. growing up i was playing for whites one night and then blacks in the townships. the country was in such a political state, man, you have never seen -- i never seen uprising like that pf. i said i won't play until i can go home one day and see my countrymen celebrating with me. >> they celebrate you now. you go to south africa now. when i go there now and say jonathan butler is a friend of mine, they roll out the red carpet. they say, i know jonathan. they love you there. >> it is really humbling. honestly, if you -- if you saw where seventh avenue was and you know, just the life i grew up in, it was humbling for me. >> tell me about "so strong" the new project. >> this record, i can't believe
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it is so much fun and it is full of you know good vibes, good feelings. it is optimistic. it happened during a time when you know my buddy waymond passed away. my mother passed away. my wife was diagnosed with cancer. thank god she's a cancer survivor. i had to -- i got signed. i had to come up with something. somehow these songs were laying in my archives somewhere in my hard drives. i started, i started just -- just sitting in the room waiting for these things to happen, i cowrote a bunch of songs with a good friend of mine. i started seeing my wife and kids with the music. i wanted to keep it positive and not -- not -- god has done an amazing thing. my wife, she's completely heeled >> when i saw you in the -- in the airport, i had not picked up
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the c.d. at that time, although i have all of the stuff. that night, when i heard you sing the song i went and got the record. >> you got to believe in something. >> how did you know? when you sang that song -- i wept right to the record store the next day. >> you know, everybody -- the lyrics, people talk about the weather like it is always going to rain. i'm an optimistic guy. i'm a positive guy. i always believed that we got -- going to come through stuff. it is going to be okay. this song. that was easy to write. some of the love songs harder, i got to know what i'm talking about, the baby, how does she feel? she want a rose? but writing something like you got to believe in something just stood out to me. >> it is great. >> thank you. >> a lot of good stuff on this project. so strong is the name of the c.d., good track called so strong. make room for me and you got to believe in something.
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it is the latest, wonderful fees. and i am glad to see you. if this means you come on the show more often, let's go to l.a.x. >> let's bring it somewhere snt studio so we could get it up with jesus. >> can we get you to play something? you can access our radio podcast. i'll see you next time. until then, good night from l.a. and keep the faith and enjoy, jonathan butler. >> got to believe in something. got to believe in something. ♪ got to believe ♪ how things come together for the good ♪ ♪ no matter what the cause ♪ no matter how things are ♪ ♪ you got to believe ♪ ♪ you got to believe ♪ ♪ got to believe in something
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♪ ♪ got to believe in something ♪ ♪ got to believe ♪ how things work together for the good ♪ ♪ no matter what the cost ♪ ♪ no matter what -- how things are lost ♪ ♪ got to believe ♪ ♪ you got to believe ♪ ♪ got to believe ♪ ♪ you got to believe ♪ ♪ believe in something ♪ believe in something ♪ tavis: love it. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at swbt. >> i'm tavis smiley. join me next time with the author, isabel wilkerson on her book. we'll see you then. >> all i know his name is james and he needs extra help with his reading.
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>> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nation widse insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide is working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one nation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> for contributions from viewers like you. thank you. ♪
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